Exciting research is looking at how mindfulness practices can support the reduction of biases. As an example, a study by Michèle D. Birtel found that the lovingkindness meditation practiced by participants who were economically secure helped reduce bias against both strangers and homeless people. Similarly, Bryan Gibson found that mindfulness training of white participants reduced bias against black and elderly people. Along the same theme, Adam Lueke found that mindfulness training of white people demonstrated an increase of trust, not just bias. However, inclusivity requires healthy attitudes and behaviours to be sustainable.
Intergroup anxiety is a term used by social psychologists to describe a fear of one group towards another – be it ethnicities, races, genders, sexual preferences or otherwise. Anxiety is about projecting a negative outcome of some action or event. Combining this negative projection with a classification of a group creates negative energy, morale, or even environment.
Often our fears are based on groups or classification systems. We classify based on arbitrary distinctions and then project onto other groups whom we do not consider ourselves belonging to. This is the basis of fear of “others.”
Practicing mindfulness can impact both anxiety and the act of othering. I define “othering” as a set of dynamics, processes, and structures that engender marginality and persistent inequality across the full range of human differences based on group identities. The act of othering, then, is largely an act of marginalization as well as inequality. Intergroup anxiety co-exists with the dynamics of othering. It is evident that together both behaviours and attitudes toward others can shift.
In my experience, a regular practice of mindfulness mediation reduces anxiety and increases inclusion by opening up space in my mind. In doing so, the practice of mindfulness has assisted me to not judge others based on the ways in which others differ from me.
The effects are felt from individuals to organizations. As I judge others less, my relations shift as do the social systems that contain them, be it family, community, or organizations. There is promise. Creating an environment without judgement amounts to a culture where fear does not predominate and enables inclusion.
Contact me to sign up for my course called “Establish a Meditation Practice at Home: Mindfulness Basics”. It’s distance-based and you can take it individually as part of a group or enterprise. Reach out to me email@example.com